The Mickey Weiss Fellowship at the Hartman Institute
Each summer, through the generous support of Edna Weiss and her late husband Mickey Weiss, alav ha-shalom, the Board of Rabbis and the Jewish Federation are able to send two rabbis and their spouses to participate in the Shalom Hartman Institute's Rabbinic Torah Study Seminar in Jerusalem.
At the Seminar, rabbis of all denominations from North America, Europe and Israel engage in intensive Jewish learning. The program combines intensive hevruta study, lectures, discussions and a tiyyul designed to enhance the effectiveness of rabbis as educators and spiritual leaders.
Reflections from Weiss Fellows of 2012:
Rabbi Jon Hanish and Rabbi Nancy Myers.
Reflections from Weiss Fellows of 2011:
Rabbi Joshua Hoffman, Rabbi Laurence Scheindlin, and Rabbi Yossi Carron.
Reflections from fellowship recipients in previous years.
Rabbi Ron Stern
In all honesty, Jerusalem is the most difficult city for me to assimilate in all of Israel. Religions and cultures clash so intensely that it's often hard to just relax as one travels through the city. This street is closed on Shabbat because the Haredi Jews can't suffer cars on Shabbat. That neighborhood shouldn't be visited by Jews because the residentsare not welcoming -- to say the least. This house in this location is controversial and has caused an uproar in the Arab neighborhood. This school doesn't offer a curriculum that is diverse enough for the various Jewish communities in the area. This Christian community doesn't get along with that one and refuses to sit near them at an ecumenical conference. In Jerusalem, the air is so intense with spiritual fervor and intensity I find myself looking in the eyes of every person I pass wondering what their issue was!
This was my frame of mind when I discovered an island of tolerance in the midst of this city of sacred ardor. It is a place of egalitarian study, multi-denominational learning, prophetic vision and intellectual challenge that is among the newest spiritual institutions in this most ancient city. The Shalom Hartman institute is an enclave of the free exchange of ideas in a city that is more often than not afraid of the ideas harbored by the "other" side. At Hartman there is no other side; Jews of all movements and ideological perspectives sit together, study sacred texts and modern literature and listen to each other with an openness that is rare in any city in the world. A Conservative woman rabbi shares her ideas with a black hatted, bearded rebbe. A secular Israel speaks about the spirituality of the Megilat Ha-Atzmaut (Israel's declaration of independence) to a room full of rabbis whose lives are spent resisting the secularization of Jewish life. And, despite the varieties of perspectives and the differences in ideologies everyone is patient and listens and endeavors to understand and walks away with insights that stretch the mind and inspire the soul.
That was the place I found myself for two weeks as a recipient of the Mickey and Edna Weiss Study Grant from the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. The Hartman Institute is a yeshiva, the likes of which the world has never seen. Nowhere else can rabbis step out of their lives for a time and replenish themselves with the wisdom of generations and the best scholarship the Jewish world has ever seen in an environment that truly touches the sacred. Da lifnei mi atah omeid (know before whom you stand) is an ancient Jewish axiom -- at Hartman it takes on new meaning as the scholars challenge themselves to bring inspiration to rabbis from around the world and rabbis take it upon themselves to soak up the learning as if every word is a drop of water on fertile soil. There are scholars who bring the latest in archeological knowledge, others share obscure Talmudic texts and novel interpretations, still others share the poetry of modern Israel, the holocaust and other times in Jewish history. Will this be the kernel of a sermon at a home congregation or the source for adult education? Perhaps, but mostly it uplifts the souls and evokes memories of the few years of learning in rabbinical school that for some of us has faded with the subsequent decades of service to our community.
Hartman is island in a complex city. The learning is profound, the spirit is engaging and the city of Jerusalem itself is lifted up because of the prophetic vision that created a modern yeshiva that embraces the world.
Rabbi Lon Moskowitz
Twenty years ago I promised my mentor and thesis advisor, Dr. Jakob J. Petuchowski, that I would religiously carve out time each and every day for the study of Torah. Otherwise, he warned, I would soon empty myself of the rich Jewish education I earned and owned as a result of the academic rigors of rabbinic studies. I've been true to my word.
For the past two decades, while serving as rabbi at B'nai Israel in Sacramento, California, at Hillel in Boulder, Colorado, and, as Prison Chaplain at California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, California, I have risen early to study Torah daily.
After all these years, I have found that it is not enough to study on my own. I need input from others. I need the give and take, the open challenge, the additional charge colleagues bring to the table to help uncover the depth and richness of holy Jewish texts, and bring them alive. Thanks to The Mickey Weiss Fellowship and the Southern California Board of Rabbis, I spent time this summer studying at the Shalom Hartman Institute's Rabbinic Study Seminar recharging my drained Jewish batteries.
For two amazing weeks, I woke early to study Torah at Shalom Hartman in Jerusalem. Together, with ninety-eight other rabbis from around the world, and across the denominational spectrum, I poured over holy texts, studied major holidays, life-cycle rituals and historical events to better understand the challenges and contributions we, the Jewish People have had and made over the past 4,000 years. Again, my soul began to breath as tensions of professional life dissipated, and I permitted myself to luxuriate in Jewish study and comradery.
For those unfamiliar with the Shalom Hartman Institute's Rabbinic Study Seminar, it is a ten-day Jewish leadership experience designed especially for the ordained. This year's topic was "Shared Narratives and Jewish Collective Memory". Here is a short list of the faculty I studied with and the subject matter we covered:
- Moshe Halbertal, The Spiritual and Ethical Dimensions of Memory.
- Israel Knohl, How Biblical Narratives Create the People Israel.
- David Hartman, Rambam, Memory and Narrative.
- Melila Hellner, Ways of Remembering Sinai.
- Rachel Korazim, Holocaust Narratives.
- Donniel Hartman, Rabbinic Narratives of God.
- Rani Jaeger, Israeli Narratives.
- David Ellenson, The Story of the American Jew.
- Noam Zohar, Remembering Heroes and Martyrs.
In addition, there were daily study sessions with colleagues (hevruta), lectures on current affairs, concerts, Israeli movies, excursions and tiyulim.
The Hartman Institute's staff took great care in servicing us as professionals. All the basics were provided: great food, entertainment, tours, top-notch faculty and guest lecturers, and even a courtesy phone to call home. But more importantly, the Study Seminar served to be thought provoking, informative and relevant. Hartman brought together a diverse and talented cross-section of Jewish community leaders from around the world, a true caring community struggling with our concepts of God, Torah and Israel (both the Jewish People and the Holy Land). We were an odd group of Israelphiles and study-nuts that serve as the true carriers of our glorious past to a hopeful future.
I left the Shalom Hartman Institute and Israel full of Torah and saturated with the sounds and sights of our Holy Land. I renewed old friendships and made some new, and I returned home with my rabbinic skills retooled and sharpened, and up to the challenge of being rabbi and spiritual leader of the Jewish community. Hartman worked out so well that I hope to return and experience the Rabbinic Study Seminar again, soon and often.
With support from The Mickey Weiss Fellowship, and the Southern California Board of Rabbis, I was afforded the opportunity to study at the Hartman Institution this summer. The experience was extremely meaningful and valuable. I am again fully charged with good learning, good adventures, and a treasure chest over flowing with new and relevant Torah. Again, I stand ready to serve my community as spiritual leader, preparing the path for others to explore our holy Jewish texts, teachings and traditions, and inspire Jewish American life.
Rabbi Richard Camras
I am delighted to share with my colleagues the worthwhile experiences I had as a participant in the 10 day Rabbinic Torah Study Seminar at the Shalom Hartman Institute. Let me first offer gratitude and appreciation to Edna Weiss and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for providing me with this experience through their very generous funding to Los Angeles rabbis. The opportunity to spend ten days in Israel without other demands on one's time was in and of itself noteworthy, allowing the country, its tastes, sounds, sites, politics, energy and challenges to seep into my pores, and reignite the soul.
Given the existential challenges Israel currently faces, both externally and internally, the topic of learning for this Rabbinic Torah Seminar was Engaging Israel: Jewish Values and the Dilemmas of Nationhood. Not only did the subject provide transformative thinking on Zionism, nationhood, the use of power, the morality of occupation, and the nature of sovereignty, but the teachers, texts, lectures and field trips provided endless chomer l'drush upon my return to the States. Not only did I speak about my experiences during the Yamim Noraim, but I have continued to access the learning as part of my own teaching during the year.
One of the most remarkable moments was discovering that while I was spending my first summer engaged in such thoughtful and meaningful learning, crossing denominational lines in chevruta, at meals and during davening, there were colleagues who had been attending for 15 or 20 consecutive summers. The level of scholarship, wisdom and practical application clearly has attuned our colleagues to the desire to return yearly for such sipuk nefesh.
Rabbi Sheryl Lewart ז״ל
Jerusalem offers up her golden treasures to those who are fortunate enough to be able to seek them out. I felt surrounded by the richness of Jerusalem this past summer, made possible by the generosity of Edna Weiss and her late husband Mickey, of blessed memory. Everywhere I turned I found golden gifts. The sunlight reflected warmly off the richly textured stone walls in the German Colony as I walked to class in the early morning. Warm tones of ochre colored flowers and of pale gold fresh pitot caressed my every sense.
But the real treasure itself, the beating golden heart of Jerusalem, lies in the richness of Jewish study. The learning possible at the Shalom Hartman Institute exemplifies that richness. As the recipient of a fellowship to study at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, I joined a group of seventy rabbis from every movement of Judaism and from every English speaking country. We struggled for twelve hours a day, to begin to reconstruct a foundation of faith and spirituality.
As a people, our strength lies in communal unity -- by coming to Jerusalem at this difficult time, in all our diversity, we found ourselves united by a love of Talmud Torah. That sense of shared purpose was the golden treasure of the City of Gold. Through the depth and richness of our study "Torah Lishma" at the Rabbinic Torah Seminar during this difficult time we found our minds and spirits engaged, our strength reinforced, and our prayers for peace nurtured.